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Stratigraphic framework of Holocene volcaniclastic deposits, Akutan Volcano, east-central Aleutian Islands, Alaska

January 1, 1999

Akutan Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, but until recently little was known about its history and eruptive character. Following a brief but sustained period of intense seismic activity in March 1996, the Alaska Volcano Observatory began investigating the geology of the volcano and evaluating potential volcanic hazards that could affect residents of Akutan Island. During these studies new information was obtained about the Holocene eruptive history of the volcano on the basis of stratigraphic studies of volcaniclastic deposits and radiocarbon dating of associated buried soils and peat. A black, scoria-bearing, lapilli tephra, informally named the 'Akutan tephra,' is up to 2 m thick and is found over most of the island, primarily east of the volcano summit. Six radiocarbon ages on the humic fraction of soil A-horizons beneath the tephra indicate that the Akutan tephra was erupted approximately 1611 years B.P. At several locations the Akutan tephra is within a conformable stratigraphic sequence of pyroclastic-flow and lahar deposits that are all part of the same eruptive sequence. The thickness, widespread distribution, and conformable stratigraphic association with overlying pyroclastic-flow and lahar deposits indicate that the Akutan tephra likely records a major eruption of Akutan Volcano that may have formed the present summit caldera. Noncohesive lahar and pyroclastic-flow deposits that predate the Akutan tephra occur in the major valleys that head on the volcano and are evidence for six to eight earlier Holocene eruptions. These eruptions were strombolian to subplinian events that generated limited amounts of tephra and small pyroclastic flows that extended only a few kilometers from the vent. The pyroclastic flows melted snow and ice on the volcano flanks and formed lahars that traveled several kilometers down broad, formerly glaciated valleys, reaching the coast as thin, watery, hyperconcentrated flows or water floods. Slightly cohesive lahars in Hot Springs valley and Long valley could have formed from minor flank collapses of hydrothermally altered volcanic bedrock. These lahars may be unrelated to eruptive activity.

Publication Year 1999
Title Stratigraphic framework of Holocene volcaniclastic deposits, Akutan Volcano, east-central Aleutian Islands, Alaska
DOI 10.1007/s004450050268
Authors C. F. Waythomas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of Volcanology
Index ID 70021526
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse